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Senate confirms Elliott after Futhey flap

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

United Transportation Union International President Malcolm B. Futhey (top photo) on Thursday apologized to a Senate committee for his “badly chosen” words, posted on the UTU website, that seemed to claim credit for the nomination of a UTU lawyer, Associate General Counsel Daniel R. Elliott III (second from top), to the Surface Transportation Board. Futhey’s apology apparently appeased West Virginia Democratic Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (third from top), who was reported to be very angry and embarrassed over Futhey’s initial statement on the influence of PAC money on political appointments: Elliott’s nomination to the STB was confirmed on the Senate floor shortly before 1:00 p.m. on Friday. Elliott now awaits his swearing in as chairman of the STB. He will join Democrat Francis P. Mulvey and Republican Charlmike-futhey.jpges D. Nottingham on the three-person board.

Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Texas Republican Senator Kaye Bailey Hutchison, ranking  member of the committee, had put Elliott’s nomination on hold after receiving complaints about Futhey’s statement, which said, in part:

“Elliott, age 46, becomes the second UTU official to be selected for a senior position in the Obama Administration. Former UTU Illinois State Legislative Director Joe Szabo was nominated by Obama—and subsequently confirmed by the Senate—to head the Federal Railroad Administration.

daniel_-elliott.jpg“‘The selection by President Obama of Dan Elliott and Joe Szabo to head major transportation regulatory agencies is tribute to the political influence of the UTU, which flows from the UTU PAC,’ said UTU International President Mike Futhey. ‘We have good reason to expect President Obama to reach into the UTU ranks for other appointments in the near future.’”

The text of Futhey’s apology letter to Rockefeller and Hutchison follows:

“On behalf of the United Transportation Union, I want to profusely apologize to the Committee for the July 7, 2009 article posted on our UTU website regarding the nomination of Daniel R. Elliott to be a member of the Surface Transportation Board. In particular, the statement that appears to attribute Mr. Elliott’s nomination to the influence of UTU PAC [money] was not in any way appropriate and is certainly not an accurate reflection of the facts surrounding his nomination.

“As the well-regarded associate general counsel for the UTU, Dan has served the interests of working families for 16 years. It is my jay-rockefeller.jpgbelief that his selection for this important post was based on these years of dedicated service, the expertise on rail matters that he developed during this time-frame and before that in public practice. I deeply regret my comments because it sullied Dan’s years of hard work, experience and sense of fairness that I believe would make him a great chairman of the STB. It is my sincere hope that my badly chosen words will not derail his confirmation.

“Again, I apologize to the Committee for this inaccurate and inappropriate statement.” 

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Sen. Rockefeller received a $15,000 UTU PAC contribution for the 2010 election cycle. Since 1989, transportation labor unions have contributed $221,000 to his political campaign fund.